2014 cap hits: Vikings contracts to consider

Matt Cassel is opting out of his contract, but the Vikings have other players to consider when it comes to wise use of their cap dollars. They are saving more than $40 million with contracts that are expiring, but they could create more space with a handful of contracts to consider.

With Matt Cassel voiding his contract for 2014, the Vikings are losing even more money off their salary ledger.

The Vikings ended the 2013 season with only $812,000 in salary cap room, but thanks to a bevy of unrestricted free agents, including the ultra-expensive Jared Allen, the team will be shaving a whopping $44.4 million in 2013 salary off the books and should have more than $25 million in cap space, depending on the exact salary cap number in 2014.

Of course, some of the unrestricted free agents, which now includes Cassel, will be re-signed. Most of those re-signed will be due increases in their salaries, like if the Vikings and Everson Griffen agree to a deal that would extend him beyond his rookie contract that cost the team only $765,000 in salary-cap dollars in 2013.

While Griffen was a bargain, Allen cost the team more than $17 million in salary cap space, accounting for more than one-third of the savings from expiring contracts from 2013.

But what if the Vikings have a few more cap casualties? Cassel was the only one with the decision in his court this month, but the team could decide to part ways or restructure some of their heftier contracts for 2014. Here is a look at some to consider (in order of 2014 cap dollars):

LB Chad Greenway: The productive linebacker spent much of 2013 playing with a broken wrist, so it's hard to argue his toughness or even his production considering the circumstances, despite some of the missed tackles that were likely the result of the wrist injury. Greenway extended his contract in September 2011 and received an $8.5 million signing bonus that is being prorated $1.7 million over the life the contract that runs through 2015. Because there is no huge prorated bonus money and because of Greenway being easily the Vikings' best and most experience linebacker, it's unlikely a restructure would take place, but just given the nature of his $8.2 million cap number in 2014, it's one of the first contracts to jump out from the Vikings' roster.

TE John Carlson: Injuries are part of the game, but since the Vikings signed Carlson to a big free-agent contract in March 2013, he has struggled to either stay on the field or be effective when he is. In 2013, a training camp injury limited his ability to get comfortable in a new offense while Kyle Rudolph had a Pro Bowl year. This year, Carlson looked to be back to form but a second concussion in two years with the Vikings, mounted on top of a serious one suffered in Seattle, has his future in doubt. The Vikings might have to reach some sort of injury settlement if they decide to release him or he may even decide on his own to retire for the betterment of his long-term health. Whatever the decision, Carlson is currently scheduled to count $5 million against the cap in 2014 and $6 million in each of the following two years of his contract. That just doesn't seem like good value, despite releasing him meaning a $3 million hit in prorated bonus money hitting the salary cap. That would still save another $2 million of the 2014 cap.

DT Letroy Guion: When Guion signed a three-year, $9 million extension with the Vikings in 2012, their hope was that he could be the anchoring nose tackle in the role Pat Williams used to man. Guion has been the starter there, but he hasn't dominated and has been almost a rotational player per his snap count. A $4.3 million cap charge for him in 2014 seems overpriced and it would cost the team only $300,000 to release him. A better idea? See if he's willing to extend and take a much lesser salary and compete for a starting job.

FB Jerome Felton: The Browns carried a fullback, Chris Ogbonnaya, on their roster in 2013, so the assumption here is that new Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will continue to employ a fullback for the Vikings like he did last year with the Browns. Jerome Felton is a calming leader in the locker room and has proven to be a worthy starting fullback, but he is also due to count $2.33 million against the 2014 salary cap. The guess here is that they keep him in the fold for at least another year, but Zach Line is also returning after a strong showing early in the 2013 season before being placed on injured reserve, and he would cost less than $500,000.

LB Erin Henderson: Henderson was ecstatic to finally get more than a one-year contract with the Vikings when he signed a two-year, $4 million deal in 2013. But Henderson didn't live up to his end of the bargain when he was arrested twice for suspicion of DUI during the season. He would cost $2.25 million keep, only $250,000 to release, and might be facing a suspension if they do keep him.

While Adrian Peterson has been the driving topic of trade talk among those outside the organization, there appears to be little chance the Vikings would try to move him and his $14 million cap charge in 2014. He is still their biggest offensive threat and the face of the franchise. He means more to the Vikings given his history here than other teams that may focus more on the passing game.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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